Never in my life have I been on a Fourth of July weekend like this one. When my new friend suggested we go to Yellowstone and back in three days, I did not realize the magnitude of his idea. From Minneapolis, Yellowstone is far. Far enough that most people who go there from here either fly or take a good week’s worth of time to drive out. Since I don’t own a car, mileage is some form of foreign measurement. “It’ll be a 2,500 mile weekend,” had very little meaning for me until very recently. Now I know. 2,500 miles is enough to make your right leg ache on the gas pedal and your eyes involuntarily close despite massive amounts of caffeine. It’s even enough miles to make the car feel like home. The only space is a dream space where the car and passengers are in their little world and the rest of the world is floating by. This reality is punctured by very little. By little things like gas station attendants.
And when you are running around Yellowstone in only 24 hours, there is a lot to see. I think my eyes are still pouring out beautiful landscapes whenever I look at people. The city is so dry and maybe no one here can tell that I am filled up with the red/orange rock of canyons and a mountain stream that is flowing slow in the valley. I can remember the way the water tickled my legs and how I thought I wanted to swim but that would make me stay there forever. And we had to get going. The car engine was always running.
We named the car Sally. She was just a little kid who was hungry for gas and new territory. She was used to the work commute on I-35 S and being spoiled by her very first boyfriend. Sally was good to us, although she ran a little hot so that I sweat for three days straight. My friend kept the AC off to save gas.
About the people driving with Sally, me and my friend. We’re an American and a European making “the great American road trip.” And we’ve got a lot about us that’s different and I keep on treating Sally too rough like slamming all her doors and not being patient with her. According to friend, there’s a minute I’m supposed to give her before turning her on where all her computers boot up. I keep forgetting to wait and maybe this makes Sally grind her gears a little but I think she still likes me. Every time before I shut my door, friend reminds me, “Don’t slam. Sally likes gentle.” This is the motto of our trip more than anything. I love this friend because I know that when we are together we are glowing and the world is a little less dark.
“I believe in God. I am so happy I met you. I believe in you. I trust you.”
We are driving down a mountain after a giant storm rattled Sally to her bones. The sun is set and my toes are cold for the first time since March. We’ve talked about words before and we don’t agree. To me words are things. To friend, they are not. But friend is still saying words, friend is taking action with words.
The drive back zoomed. Traveling toward familiar things. We drive in shifts. There is less discussion of logistics. I drive, friend drives, we stop for gas. There is a rhythm to our exhaustion. At one point I brush over a dead deer in a construction zone. There is no room to swerve, no time to slow down. Sally’s belly drags on the carcass. Friend is sleeping. I pray Sally is okay so friend can stay peaceful and not freak out about Sally being sick.
Everything is okay except in the morning light at a gas station in North Dakota, we hear some scraping as we pull in. On our belly’s we look underneath Sally. A big hunk of plastic hangs down. This is the 4th of July and the only mechanic open is at Walmart. I get this information from the guys hanging out drinking coffee at the gas station. Friend is feeling emotion for Sally. I can tell. He is not saying much.
At Walmart, the two mechanics are bored and think we are a little crazy. Friend honked his horn as we pulled in to get their attention. They are a fat one and skinny one and remind me of the two thugs from the Disney movie “101 Dalmatians.” They look at Sally. “We can take that think off for you.”
Friend says, “I was thinking you could stitch it together.”
The mechanics don’t like that idea because they can’t do that. “I could probably be a car mechanic, ” I think to myself. We are on our way with Sally making some complaints as she makes turns or goes over bumps. Her belly is scraping on the pavement. Poor Sally.
We make it home, split up the remaining food, feel goodbye, another ending. In this circle, we are soft and another life is calling.